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A Voyage Long and Strange: On the Trail of Vikings, Conquistadors, Lost Colonists, and Other Adventurers in Early America Paperback – April 28, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

SignatureReviewed by Robert Sullivan. As opposed to the Pilgrims, Tony Horwitz begins his journey at Plymouth Rock.Plymouth Rock is a myth. The Pilgrims—who, Horwitz notes, were on a mission that was based less on freedom and the schoolbook history ideas the president of the United States typically mentions when he pardons a turkey at the White House and more on finding a cure for syphilis—may or may not have noticed it. In about 1741, a church elder in Plymouth, winging it, pointed out a boulder that is now more like a not-at-all-precious stone. Three hundred years later, people push and shove to see it in summer tourist season, wearing T-shirts that say, America's Hometown. Which eventually leads an overstimulated (historically speaking) Horwitz to come close to starting a fight in a Plymouth bar. Not to Virginians it isn't, he writes. Or Hispanics or Indians.Forget all the others, his bar mate says loudly. This is the friggin' beginning of America!A Voyage Long and Strange is a history-fueled, self-imposed mission of rediscovery, a travelogue that sets out to explore the surprisingly long list of explorers who discovered America, and what discovered means anyway, starting with the Vikings in A.D. 1000, and ending up on the Mayflower. Horwitz (Blue Latitudes; Confederates in the Attic) even dons conquistador gear, making the narrative surprisingly fun and funny, even as he spends a lot of time describing just how badly Columbus and subsequently the Spanish treated people. (Highpoint: a trip to a Columbus battle site in the Dominican Republic, when Horwitz gets stuck with a nearly inoperable rental car in a Sargasso Sea of traffic.) In the course of tracing the routes of de Soto in, for instance, Tennessee, and the amazing Cabeza de Vaca (Daniel Day Lewis's next role?) in Tucson, Ariz., Horwitz drives off any given road to meet the back-to-the-land husband-and-wife team researching Coronado's expeditions through Mexico; or the Fed Ex guy who may be a link to the lost colonists of the Elizabethan Roanoke expedition.Horwitz can occasionally be smug about what constitutes custom—who's to say that a Canadian tribe's regular karaoke night isn't a community-building exercise as valid as the communal sweat that nearly kills Horwitz early on in his thousands of miles of adventures? But as a character himself, he is friendly and always working hard to listen and bear witness. I hate the whole Thanksgiving story, says a newspaper editor of Spanish descent, a man he meets along the trail of Coronado. We should be eating chili, not turkey. But no one wants to recognize the Spanish because it would mean admitting that they got here decades before the English.Robert Sullivan is the author of Cross Country, How Not to Get Rich and Rats .
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“Wonderfully written, and heroically researched...Horwitz unearths whole chapters of American history that have been ignored.” ―The Boston Globe

“Poignant and hilarious . . . Riveting.” ―The Seattle Times

“History of the most accessible sort . . . full of vivid characters and wild detail.” ―The New York Times

“Entertaining, insightful . . . Rich with reading pleasure.” ―The Christian Science Monitor


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (April 27, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312428324
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312428327
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.3 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (162 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #57,916 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Tony is a native of Washington, D.C., and a graduate of Brown University and Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. He spent a decade overseas as a foreign correspondent, mainly covering wars and conflicts for The Wall Street Journal. After returning to the U.S., he won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting and wrote for The New Yorker before becoming a full-time author.

His books include the national and New York Times bestsellers, Confederates in the Attic, Blue Latitudes, Baghdad Without a Map and A Voyage Long and Strange. Midnight Rising, was named a New York Times Notable Book of 2011; one of the year's ten best books by Library Journal; and won the 2012 William Henry Seward Award for Excellence in Civil War Biography. His latest, BOOM, is his first ebook, about a journey through the tar sands and along the route of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Tony has also been a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, and a visiting scholar at the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University. He lives with his wife, Geraldine Brooks, and their sons, Nathaniel and Bizu, on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

74 of 76 people found the following review helpful By Kerry Walters VINE VOICE on May 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Some of my favorite books are those in which the authors recreate historical voyages. Thor Heyerdahl's Kon-Tiki and Ra journeys, Colin Tubrin's pilgrimage along the Silk Road, Dayton Duncan's re-tracing the Lewis & Clark path: I love reading that stuff. And now Tony Horwitz has contributed to the genre with his A Voyage Long and Strange, a book in which he "roams the annals of early America" (p. 7). Readers who remember his Confederates in the Attic can well imagine the insight with which Horwitz explores the history of the New World's discovery and the wry sense of humor he brings to his personal rediscovery of ancient routes.

Horwitz set out to explore all the points in the New World "discovered" and described by early explorers. Focusing on the three categories (that frequently, in reality, overlapped) of discovery, conquest, and settlement, Horwitz narrates the history of, for example, Coronado's search for the Cities of Gold (pp. 134-164) or the settlement of Roanoke's "lost colony" (pp. 293-325), and interweaves in the narration accounts of his own travels over Coronado's route and his exploration of the Carolina peninsula where the lost colony once flourished. The mixture makes for exciting reading, lending a contemporary vitality to the historical descriptions.

I was especially intrigued by Horwitz's account of the Spanish exploration of the New World (chapters 5-9). It's as good a short account of the conquest of the southeastern coastal regions, the southwestern deserts, and the plains west of the Mississippi, as any I know. Chapter 9, which deals with de Soto's rather aimless trek north of what today is Louisiana into Arkansas, Mississippi, and Texas--which Horwitz describes as "wandering blind, deaf, and mute in the middle of the continent" (p.
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35 of 35 people found the following review helpful By A. Rehm on June 4, 2009
Format: Paperback
Some people get turned off by Horwitz's light, popular style; he mixes his history with his own travelogues as he follows its trail, which means that parts of his books are about crappy hotel rooms and weirdos. All that fluff conceals a careful, sober researcher, though; when you're done breezing through one of his books, you'll realize that you learned quite a bit after all.

"A Voyage Long and Strange" covers the murky epoch between the original "discovery" of America and the 1620 Plymouth settlement, when men like Hernando de Soto and Cabeza de Vaca were wandering lost and starving through America, looking for gold and shooting everything else. Fascinating stuff.
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183 of 209 people found the following review helpful By M. L Lamendola VINE VOICE on May 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover
A delightful historical narrative! And quite refreshing in this age of disinformation.

While our public schools continue their relentless rewriting of history to fit the agenda of special interest groups (such as the criminal protection lobby's removal of firearms from image of Washington crossing the Delaware), it's good to come across a book based on open-minded research. Turning the conventional pattern completely backwards, Horwitz seeks information and then forms conclusions. That approach made this book a "keeper." In fact, Horwitz deftly defrocks a long list of myths, half-truths, and utter fabrications that are almost canonical today.

He defies another convention by staying on topic. If you've been offended by books the author uses to segue into political side issues, you'll be pleased at Horwitz's not doing that.

Tony Horwitz follows the centuries-long European discovery of the new world. This discovery didn't, as popular myth holds, start at Plymouth Rock. Nor, as we are told during Thanksgiving each year, did European settlement begin with the Pilgrims. In fact, those folks didn't call themselves Pilgrims--that's a label fabricated for them in much later times.

The discovery, exploration, and settlement occurred in fits and starts. It was more stumbling and bumbling than it was heroic conquest. And it was more often brutal than it was noble.

While reading this, I frequently laughed aloud. Horwitz has a knack for keeping things lively with quips, barbs, and acerbic wit. His own adventures while visiting the many places discussed in the book sometimes produced situations that were farcical enough for a few chuckles. At other times, the people he ran across were, themselves, hilarious.
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45 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Julie Neal VINE VOICE on May 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When a history book describes Plymouth Rock as looking like a "fossilized potato" and Florida's capitol building as "The Big D...," you know you're in for something unusual. Having gone to college in Tallahassee, I can attest to the reasons for the capitol's nickname -- its "towering shaft flanked by gonadlike domes," as author Tony Horwitz puts it. He writes with equal wit throughout "A Voyage Long and Strange," a smart, funny book that skewers traditional views of our nation's past. I couldn't put it down.

The book explores the lusty, violent period in American history between Columbus and Jamestown. Horwitz embarks on a journey of his own, exploring the modern-day places where our country began. Along the way he uncovers some strange truths -- Columbus never saw or set foot on any land that became U.S. soil; Pocahontas was only 10 years old when she met John Smith and they were never romantic; Ponce de Leon was looking not for the Fountain of Youth but rather gold, just like so many others. The overall picture is cruel, hilarious, messy, unfair and always fascinating.

Over a dozen maps and many historical black and white illustrations are scattered through the book.

Here's the chapter list:

Part 1: Discovery
1. Vinland: First contact
2. 1492: The hidden half of the globe
3. Santo Domingo: The Columbus jinx
4. Dominican Republic: You think there are still Indians?

Part II: Conquest
5. The Gulf Coast: Naked in the New World
6. The Southwest: To the Seven Cities of Stone
7. The Plains: Sea of grass
8. The South: De Soto does Dixie
9. The Mississippi: Conquistador's last stand

Part III: Settlement
10. Florida: Fountain of youth, river of blood
11. Roanoke: Lost in the lost colony
12. Jamestown: The captain and the naturals
13. Plymouth: A tale of two rocks
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